TAMPA — As the only coach to face Florida State and Alabama this season, LSU’s Brian Kelly has a unique perspective on the 12-1 Crimson Tide taking the final playoff spot ahead of the 13-0 Seminoles.
Kelly seemed to understand the decision, even if he feels bad about FSU’s exclusion.
“They were two different teams at the end of the year,” Kelly said Thursday evening during a promotional event for the Jan. 1 ReliaQuest Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
His points are similar to what the College Football Playoff selection committee chairperson said Sunday. FSU changed after the injury to star quarterback Jordan Travis — a player Kelly faced four different times and one that commanded his respect.
Kelly didn’t blame the committee for the decision. He said the system had a fatal flaw with five major conferences but only four available spots.
“Somebody was getting left out, one of them,” Kelly said. “The math just said that. There was going to have to be an evaluation process of how somebody was going to get left at the altar. This evaluation came down to that quarterback wasn’t on that roster. And because of it, that team was not the same team.
“It’s unfortunate. I feel for them. I would be upset if I were them. But the reality of it is, you’ve only got four spots for five teams, and you have to find a mitigating factor in there. They did, and that’s the story.”
Kelly was then asked if the process itself is ridiculous.
“Yes…” he said. “It just took us this long to get to 12 teams.
“Because you have so many good programs now that are invested in this, the window was too small to avoid the inevitable. That was a deserving team that got left out. That’s just my opinion.”
Kelly’s ReliaQuest Bowl opponent, Wisconsin’s Luke Fickell, said he was “a bit” shocked by the committee’s decision and it’s another data point that “shows us our system is a little bit broken.”
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Fickell went through a similar situation as Cincinnati’s coach. Though his 2021 Bearcats became the first team from a mid-major conference to make the final four, he went 9-0 the year before during the 2020 COVID season and was excluded in favor of 10-1 Clemson and 10-1 Notre Dame.
“We were undefeated. Cincinnati, we weren’t Florida State,” Fickell said. “I knew deep down inside we weren’t going to get in if it was (against) Texas, Ohio State, those were the other teams…
“And I just understand sometimes the bigger picture of these things. I didn’t say it’s right. But the bigger picture of what sometimes the logo and what the followings are.”
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